Ten years since taking over a desert saloon in Pioneertown, Calif., two New Yorkers have transformed it into an oasis of indie rock and a breeding ground for music stars.
In 2003, Robyn Celia and Linda Krantz took over Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a dusty desert roadhouse that they’ve since turned into one of California’s most unique live music venues. A two-hour drive from Los Angeles, it’s next to a defunct movie set built with the help of Roy Rogers in the 1940s, complete with empty saloon, jail and bank facades. Pappy’s clientele is a Lynchian mix of bikers, hipsters and the occasional celebrity like Anne Hathaway (who stopped by for nachos the night after her Oscar win) and Kesha (who sang a Bob Dylan song during an open mic night).
When Celia, a musician, and Krantz, who used to work in the film industry, bought the bar from an airline pilot who had let it slide into disrepair, the Pappy’s house band played what sounded like the same music set almost every night. Celia decided to reach out to the country star Lucinda Williams, who, to her surprise, accepted an invite to play there and tore down the sold-out house. Ten years in, Pappy’s has become a go-to venue for arena acts — Spiritualized, Vampire Weekend and Conor Oberst, among many others — hungry for more intimate shows. But no matter how star-studded it gets, Pappy’s remains steadfastly down-home, with local acts entertaining the often-rowdy crowd. “It’s the only place I’ve been thrown out of three times and still go back to . . . because you’re thrown out with love,” says the desert native and Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme.
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